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14-year-old Violette's family move to a suburban area classified as a difficult zone by the government. Bullied, she seeks 16-year-old Sabine's help, is drawn into her gang, and is soon swept up into physical violence.
There's something irrefutably Gallic about this arresting rite-of- passage movie. When social maypole Camille falls pregnant at her French high school, her friends and other hangers-on take it upon themselves to get pregnant too. The film focuses on the girls and the dynamics of their relationships in this novel situation. What's so French about it though is that no-one seems to be able to get to the bottom of why this has come to pass. Despite plenty of dialogue bouncing off the topic the only real causal suggestion comes in the repeated - and silent - sequences of shots which observe the girls' bodies and frame the girls in their provincial bedrooms, staring into space, bored or dreaming. It's like Sofia Coppola's Virgin Suicides, with all the generational disconnect, and birth substituted for death.
Dreaming is the key, a word which appears in the poetic pay-off voice-over line at the close. With little on offer in the town, the girls look to create their future for themselves in this radical way. As it is with young people in this country, there is little thought given to the practical ramifications of the birth, the '18 years of sacrifice' that Camille's mother refers to, berating her headstrong daughter. Instead the girls cling do their legal research - how to wrest themselves from parental control and the state's financial obligations - and cling to one another for the rest.
It's a well-observed, often touching film in which the Coulin sisters manage a consistent tension. It's the tension of the vacuum around young people making demands for money, which come with too few or too heavy a burden of responsibility attached. I enjoyed the inclusion of Camille's brother, a soldier whose dreams are mortgaged to the state that has sent him to war. In a dreadful, subtle scene we see photos of his mascot teddy, a childish toy, propped up against the guns as if firing them.
An absorbing, realist film that would stand up well in a double feature against the melodrama of Romain Gavras' Our Day Will Come (2010). 6/10
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